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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #351908

Research Project: Enhancing Production and Ecosystem Services of Horticultural and Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern United States

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Classified paper waste use for training land rehabilitation

Author
item Torbert, Henry - Allen
item Busby, R - Us Army Corp Of Engineers (USACE)
item Prior, Stephen - Steve

Submitted to: International Soil Tillage Research Organization Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/4/2018
Publication Date: 10/5/2018
Citation: Torbert III, H.A., Busby, R.R., Prior, S.A. 2018. Classified paper waste use for training land rehabilitation. In: Proceedings of the International Soil Tillage Research Organization, September 24-27, 2018, Paris, France. p. 193-194.

Interpretive Summary: Large amounts of classified documents are landfilled by the Department of Defense (DoD) since they are pulverized too finely for recycling. This work evaluated the use of this waste paper as an organic soil amendment for rehabilitating disturbed US military training lands. Currently, DoD manages 9.7 million hectares of land for military training operations. This paper material can help reestablish native warm season perennial grasses adapted to nutrient poor soils. Use of this paper at Fort Polk, LA on two of the most common soil types found on military training lands showed that paper application improved native grass establishment and soil physical properties with no noticeable impact on soil contaminant levels. A 36 ton per acre rate appears to be the upper limit for adequate soil incorporation. This alternative to landfilling pulverized paper can reduced operational costs while simultaneously supporting rehabilitation of DoD training lands.

Technical Abstract: This project will demonstrate and validate utilization of pulverized waste paper as an organic soil amendment for rehabilitation of disturbed training lands. Large quantities of classified documents are landfilled by the Department of Defense (DoD) since they have been pulverized too finely to be recycled. However, on military training lands requiring rehabilitation, this material can be used to reestablish native warm season perennial grasses adapted to nutrient poor soils. Abundant soil nitrogen can hinder native grass establishment, thus the addition of a carbon rich amendment (i.e., pulverized paper) can decreased nitrogen availability over the short term which favors grass establishment. Paper was analyzed to determine available plant nutrients and to ensure low contaminant concentrations. Two study sites were established at Fort Polk, LA. Paper was applied at rates of 18, 36, 54, and 72 Mg ha-1 at one site while rates at the other site were halved (9, 18, 27, and 36 Mg ha-1). Paper treatments, a standard practice treatment, and a control were replicated 4 times at each site in a randomized complete block design. Data collection consisted of plant species composition and biomass, plant nutrient concentrations, soil respiration, and soil physiochemical properties. Overall, first year data indicated that paper application worked as expected. Nitrogen was immobilized as decomposition occurred, reducing invasive plant growth and favoring native grass establishment. Soil properties improved, which should have a lasting effect on drainage, erosion, and plant growth. After year one, the 27 Mg ha-1 paper application appears to provide the greatest benefit to both soil and plants. This project will provide a unique alternative to the disposal of pulverized classified documents. Since DoD is the largest US producer of classified documents, providing an alternative to landfilling pulverized paper will result in reduced operational costs while simultaneously supporting rehabilitation of DoD training lands.